Brahma Sutras – According to Shankara 1-4-2

Topic 2 - The Tri-coloured Ajā of the Śvetāśvatara Upanishad is not the Sānkhya’s Pradhāna

In the last topic the opponent was refuted on the ground that the mere mention of the word ‘Avyakta’ was not sufficient reason to identify it as the Sānkhya’s category called the Pradhāna.

The opponent here gives more analogies from the Śruti texts to uphold his view.

 Sutra 1,4.8

चमसवदविशेषात् ॥ ८ ॥

camasavadaviśeṣāt || 8 ||

camasavat—Like the bowl; aviśeṣāt—for want of special characteristics.

8. (The word ‘Ajā’ cannot be asserted to mean the Pradhāna) for want of special characteristics, as in the case of the bowl.

There is one Ajā, red, white, and black producing manifold offspring of the same appearance (colour)” (Svet. 4. 5).

The question is whether this ‘Ajā’ refers to the Sānkhya category Prakriti or to the fine elements fire, water, and earth.

The Sānkhyas hold that ‘Ajā’ here means the Pradhāna, the unborn; and red, white, and black refer to its three constituents, the Guṇas—Sattva, Rajas, and Tamas.

This Sutra refutes this, saying that in the absence of special characteristics there is no basis for such a special assertion. The text can be interpreted otherwise also.

There is a bowl that has its opening below and bulging at the top” (Brih. 2 . 2 . 3).

It is impossible to decide from the text itself what kind of bowl is meant. So also it is impossible to fix the meaning of ‘Ajā’ from the text alone.

As in the case of the bowl the complementary texts fix what kind of bowl is meant, so also here we have to refer this passage to supplementary scriptural texts to fix the meaning of ‘Ajā’ and not assert that it means the Pradhāna.

Sutra 1,4.9

ज्योतिरुपक्रमा तु, तथा ह्यधीयत एके ॥ ९ ॥

jyotirupakramā tu, tathā hyadhīyata eke || 9 ||

jyotirupakramā—(Elements) beginning with light; tu—but; tathā—so; hi—because; adhīyata—read; eke—some.

9. But (the elements) beginning with light (are meant by the word Ajā), because some read so.

The Chāṇḍogya assigns to the elements fire, water, and earth, created by the Lord, red, white, and black colours. Vide Chh. 6.2.2-4 and G.4.1 .

This passage fixes the meaning of the word ‘Ajā’ here. It refers to the three elementary substances i.e. fire, earth, and water, from which the rest of the creation has been produced.

It is not the Prakriti of the Sānkhyas consisting of the three Guṇas.

In the former interpretation the three colours can be taken in their primary sense, whereas they can represent the three Guṇas in a secondary sense only.

Moreover, the force of the recognition of the Śruti is stronger; that is to say, if we can beyond doubt recognize in this passage what is elsewhere mentioned in the Śruti, that will be more reasonable than to recognize categories of a Smriti in the Śruti texts.

Sutra 1,4.10

ज्योतिरुपक्रमा तु, तथा ह्यधीयत एके ॥ १० ॥

kalpanopadeśācca madhvādivadavirodhaḥ || 10 ||

kalpanopadeśāt—Instruction having been given through; ca—and imagery; madhvādivat—as in the case of ‘honey’ etc.; avirodhaḥ—no incongruity.

10. And instruction having been given through the imagery (of a goat) (there is) no incongruity, (even) as in the case of ‘honey’ (standing for the sun in Madhuvidyā for the purpose of devout meditation) and such other cases.

The word ‘Ajā’ refers to something unborn; so how can it refer to the three causal elements of the Chāṇḍogya, which are something created? It is incongruous, says the objector.

There is no incongruity in it, answers the Sutra, as the elements are spoken of through the imagery of a she-goat (Ajā).

Even as the sun in Madhuvidyā is represented as honey in the text, “The sun indeed in the honey” (Chh. 3. 1 . 1), so also are the three elementary substances of the Chāṇḍogya represented as the goat.

A she-goat may be black, white, and red, and may give birth to offspring representing her in colour.

Similarly out of the combination of fire, water, and earth, having red, white, and black colours respectively, are produced all the inanimate and animate beings of similar colours.

The combination of the fine elements, fire, water, and earth is here spoken of by the imagery of a tri-coloured goat, and that is why it is called an Ajā, which does not however mean unborn.